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Throwback Thursday: DIY Holiday Decor That Graced President Obama's Guest House

by Jessica Kellner, Editor

Tags: DIY Christmas decor, DIY ornaments, holiday decorations, DIY holiday, sustainable holiday decor, sustainable Christmas, White House Christmas, President Obama, Jessica Kellner,

Today it's throwback Thursday, when I revisit a favorite project from the past. And today I'm thinking of the holidays, as my email is overflowing with PR messages about gift ideas and holiday decorating options, which got me thinking about all the great holiday decor we've featured in the past. The holiday article that stands out by far the most in my mind was one of the most amazing projects I've ever professionally participated in—when Natural Home & Garden was invited to decorate President Obama's guest house two years ago as part of the Magazine Publishers of America (now the Association of Magazine Media) Holiday Design Showcase. We joined our sister magazine, Mother Earth News, and several other publications—among them Martha Stewart Living, This Old House and Better Homes & Gardens—to install holiday decor in the Blair House (the president's guest house) and the Harry S. Truman building.

This was one of the most exciting, amazing projects I've ever had the honor to participate in, but it was also one of the most hectic! All of the magazine staffs had only a few weeks before the installation began to organize, so we had zero time to spare. We called on our friends at Viva Terra to contribute sustainable decor items, and the designers at Denver's Associates III for help with the overall concept. Because the event was designed to honor diplomacy across the globe, we decided to focus on Christmas trees, a traditional symbol of peace and unity. We also incorporated tons of handmade items to express our magazine's values of simplicity and sustainability. The results were, in my humble opinion, gorgeous, and it was worth all the effort and more to attend the diplomatic holiday event hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. If you'd like to make some presidentially approved DIY decor for your home this year, check out the photos and links to instructions below!

Blair House 1 
We showed off wrapping gifts in recycled materials such as brown paper bags, and made this crafty Christmas tree out of recycled newsprint. Get instructions to make this golden tree.

Blair 10 

These mini cardboard trees "planted" in terra cotta pots make adorable tabletop decorations.
Blair House 10 
The Blair House always includes a 9-foot Christmas tree in an alcove overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. We had the honor of decorating that traditional tree—with quartz crystal ornaments from Viva Terra and LED lights.

Blair House 2 
Because these rooms were used throughout the holiday season to host diplomatic guests, we wanted to incorporate an appreciation of our global community. These recycled metal angels from Viva Terra are handmade in Haiti out of the hundreds of old oil drums that washed up on the beach after World War II.

Blair House 3 
These birch bark Christmas trees from Viva Terra (no longer available) are made of bark shavings that don't harm the tree.

Blair House 4 
Our sister publication Mother Earth News also decorated rooms in the Blair House. Their theme celebrated our nation's agricultural heritage and included heirloom apples and wheat. We joined in the celebration with locally grown cotton buds and pussywillows from a nearby nursery.
Blair House 5 
A recycled chickadee vase from Arhaus Furniture is made of recycled glass.

Blair House 7 
We purchased dozens of vintage ornaments from eBay and decoupaged them with old tissue paper. Revive your own least-favorite ornaments (or check thrift stores to find a multitude) with this fun winter craft! Get the instructions here.

 Blair House 8 
We made these fragrant stained-glass citrus ornaments and cinnamon-cookie ornaments to naturally scent our spaces. You can make them, too!

Blair House 9 
Our staff (left to right): Me (did I mention the airline lost my luggage the night before so I had to borrow clothes from a friend?!? Out of hundreds of flights, it's the one and only time my luggage has been lost—of course when I'm going to an event at the White House!); Kim Wallace, former web editor; Robyn Griggs Lawrence, former editor-in-chief; Bryan Welch, publisher; and Tabitha Alterman,  food and garden editor